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1780s stays, 18th century, Bella Donna, events, projects

New Stays & Pirate Fest!

Following up on all those thoughts — and that mockup! — about flared-front 18th century stays, I 1) found more examples, and 2) made up my stays, and 3) wore them to the Northern California Pirate Festival where I performed with Bella Donna as the House of the Rising Sun!

I didn’t have a lot of time, what with the court gown looming, so despite loving my hand sewn stays, I whipped these suckers out by machine. I even used a machine for the BINDING, which is crazy! It took me a full day to bind them on the machine, but I found I got a decent result if I paused at all the outside curves and ran a gathering stitch in both edges of the petersham. I used coutil this time for the inners (since they’re machine sewn, there’s no point in going crazy trying to find/afford the right weight linen) and the same silk damask for the outer layer, as I had more in the stash.

And, as suspected, the shape it gave me was a real improvement! I again used the super-hard metal boning for key points, and German plastic boning for everything else. In particular, the flared front gives my boobs more room, and the wider front (all boned with super-hard steel) flattens my tummy more than expected.


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One other benefit of the flared front stays — it gave me a smaller waist. I was able to cut these to the same size as my last pair, which I’d since had to let out to a 3-4″ gap in back, only by adding the bust flare.

Since at Pirate Fest we play dirty whores tarts, I wore these as outerwear — and since there are multiple occasions that I do so, I added a second row of lacing holes so I could add a decorative ribbon lacing to the CF. It’s mostly hidden by the bow, but you’ll see it in the group shot above.

Here’s the whole outfit, including the open-front skirt I made:



And here’s me and my girls, performing at the festival!


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  • Reply Erin C July 13, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Those are a fantastic shape! More boob space is a good thing. :)

  • Reply Audrey July 19, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Hi, am a french blogger and I have nominated your blog to an award. If you want to know more about it: http://en-robee.blogspot.fr/2015/07/et-les-nomines-sont.html

  • Reply Carey Hale February 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I’m binding a pair of linen bodies right now via machine. My trick is I stick my binding (linen ribbon I’ve ironed in half) all along the edges using wash away wonder tape, that way I can reposition any parts of it as needed. Since the tape tends to get a less sticky if repositioned too many times (or if you have too much cat hair on your project like me), I then steam press it all around to really lock it down (once I’ve got it where I want it). Then it’s off to the machine to stitch it all down and no worries if you see a bit of the tape from under the binding, just wash the garment or soak in a little water and it’s gone. The only time I’ve had the wonder tape bind up the needle is at the corners where it can get a bit bulky, but I’ve never hand it gum up the needle. The best part about doing it this way is not having to pin at all. I discovered this trick when trying to pin and stitch the bust and hip gussets in my Victorian corset. It made that process a hundred times easier.

    • Reply kendra February 29, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      That is such a great suggestion, thank you! I’ll definitely have to try this.

  • Reply Ananya June 29, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Very Nice Dress!!! Loved it

  • Reply Annabel September 20, 2017 at 2:47 am

    I’d like to subscribe and receive regular posts please. Love this one since it’s so nice to see curvy ladies like myself.

  • Reply Beverly November 29, 2017 at 10:25 am

    I am a long time sewer but just now getting interested in historic fashion sewing. I am so glad to see that you are in Northern California. I live in Southern California and was thinking that I would be alone in my historic fashion journey since everything I have seen in typically in Europe or on the East Coast. Yay!

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